IZUMO, SHIMANE PREF. - Princess Noriko on Sunday married the eldest son of the head priest of the Izumo Taisha grand shrine in Shimane Prefecture, thereby relinquishing her Imperial status.
The 26-year-old princess, a daughter of the late Prince Takamado, Emperor Akihito’s cousin, and Kunimaro Senge, 41, were wed at the shrine where his family has been in charge of Shinto rituals for generations, following a tradition adopted by female members of the Imperial family.
Twenty-one people, including the princess’ mother, Princess Hisako, elder sister, Princess Tsuguko, and younger sister, Princess Ayako, as well as the Senge’s parents and various relatives, attended the wedding.
About 300 people, including friends of the couple, are expected to attend a wedding reception in Matsue on Monday, while Crown Prince Naruhito, Crown Princess Masako and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be among the guests at a dinner party to be held at a Tokyo hotel on Wednesday.
It was the first marriage involving an Imperial family member since the Emperor’s daughter, Princess Sayako, married an official of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in 2005. She is now known as Sayako Kuroda.
After the ceremony, Senge told reporters, “I was worried because a typhoon was approaching and am relieved that the wedding is over.”
The groom said he hopes to live happily ever after in Izumo and his new wife agreed.
Princess Hisako said in a statement issued by the Imperial Household Agency that she hopes the couple’s new life will be filled with happiness and joy, and they will build a family in which members will be always smiling.
At the grand shrine, about 2,200 well-wishers gathered to celebrate the couple’s wedding, with many waving the Hinomaru flag. Atsuko Sugiyama, a 66-year-old housewife from Shizuoka Prefecture, said the bride and groom “make a perfect couple” and the late Prince Takamado “must be rejoicing” at their wedding.
Princess Noriko, now Noriko Senge, will start a new life in a house next to the shrine grounds with her husband, his parents and a younger brother, helping with rituals and festival events.
The Imperial House Law stipulates a princess has to relinquish her status as a member of the Imperial family when she weds a commoner. The government has decided to bestow a one-time ¥106.75 million allowance on the couple.
The princess said she was introduced to Senge in April 2007, when she visited the shrine with her mother. She was a student at Gakushuin University at the time.
The two deepened their relationship through bird-watching and tree-planting.
Senge served a as priest at shrines in Tokyo and Kyoto after graduating from Kokugakuin University. He has been assisted his father, Takamasa Senge, at Izumo Taisha since March 2005.
The Senge family was friendly with Prince Takamado, a cousin to Emperor Akihito, and retains cordial ties with Princess Hisako. The prince died in 2002 during a game of squash.